Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 2985-3020, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Review Status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in ACP.
Climate impact on airborne particulate matter concentrations in California using seven year analysis periods
A. Mahmud1, M. Hixson1, J. Hu2, Z. Zhao2, S. Chen2, and M. J. Kleeman1
1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California at Davis, One Shields Ave, Davis CA 95616, USA
2Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources, University of California at Davis, One Shields Ave, Davis CA 95616, USA

Abstract. The effect of global climate change on the annual average concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in California was studied using a climate – air quality modeling system composed of global through regional models. Output from the NCAR/DOE Parallel Climate Model (PCM) generated under the "business as usual" global emissions scenario was downscaled using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model followed by air quality simulations using the UCD/CIT airshed model. The air quality simulations were carried out for the entire state of California with a resolution of 8-km for the years 2000–2006 (present climate) and 2047–2053 (future climate). The 7-year windows were chosen to properly account for annual variability with the added benefit that the air quality predictions under the present climate could be compared to actual measurements. The climate – air quality modeling system successfully predicted the spatial pattern of present climate PM2.5 concentrations in California but the absolute magnitude of the annual average PM2.5 concentrations were under-predicted by ~35–40% in the major air basins. The majority of this under-prediction was caused by excess ventilation predicted by PCM-WRF that should be present to the same degree in the current and future time periods so that the net bias introduced into the comparison is minimized.

Surface temperature, relative humidity (RH), rain rate, and wind speed were predicted to increase in the future climate while the ultra violet (UV) radiation was predicted to decrease in major urban areas in the San Joaquin Valley (SJV) and South Coast Air Basin (SoCAB). These changes resulted in a ~0.6–1.9 μg m−3 decrease in predicted PM2.5 concentrations in coastal and central Los Angeles. Annual average PM2.5 concentrations were predicted to increase at certain locations within the SJV and the Sacramento Valley due to the effects of climate change, but a corresponding analysis of the annual variability showed that these predictions are not statistically significant (i.e. the choice of a different 7-year period could produce a different outcome for these regions). Overall, virtually no region in California outside of coastal and central Los Angeles experienced a statistically significant change in annual average PM2.5 concentrations due to the effects of climate change in the present study.

The present study employs the highest spatial resolution (8 km) and the longest analysis windows (7 years) of any climate-air quality analysis conducted for California to date, but the results still have some degree of uncertainty. Most significantly, GCM calculations have inherent uncertainty that is not fully represented in the current study since a single GCM was used as the starting point for all calculations. Ensembles of GCM results are usually employed to build confidence in climate calculations. The current results provide a first data-point for the climate-air quality analysis that simultaneously employ the fine spatial resolution and long time scales needed to capture the behavior of climate-PM2.5 interactions in California. Future downscaling studies should follow up with a full ensemble of GCMs as their starting point.

Citation: Mahmud, A., Hixson, M., Hu, J., Zhao, Z., Chen, S., and Kleeman, M. J.: Climate impact on airborne particulate matter concentrations in California using seven year analysis periods, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 10, 2985-3020, doi:10.5194/acpd-10-2985-2010, 2010.
Search ACPD
Discussion Paper
    Final Revised Paper